Thursday, December 29, 2011

Making a Resolution, Make it Green

photo source
Making a New Year's resolution has always been a daunting task for me, and perhaps for many.  And it seems all too often our resolutions fail come February one. I try to start out small, setting attainable goals that will hopefully help me achieve bigger goals.  Such as, remembering to to use a travel mug for my morning coffee. Eventually, I would like to reduce my coffee intake to once a week and then to none at all (which is the ultimate green way).

Last year many of my goals involved being and living greener.  This year it will be much of the same: to live green and do my best to help this magnificent green earth.  Specifically, I would love to volunteer with Greenpeace or World Wildlife Fund, or any other cause that inspire me.  I would like to reduce my carbon footprint of course, that will be the biggest challenge for 2012 but like I said, small steps.

So to help get you started here are some resolution ideas you can aim for, both big and small:

  1. Cut down on food waste
  2. Become a do-it-yourself-er. These days, there are so many websites devoted to DIY projects that there is really no excuse.  You just need to do the research and make the time for it.
  3. Reduce your carbon footprint
  4. Reduce your water footprint
  5. Volunteer for a green cause
  6. Be vegetarian or vegan for one day a week or one week per month.  P.S. You'll also save money if you do it smart!
  7. Don't just recycle, reduce and reuse more
  8. Give up plastic, for good! This can start small, no plastic grocery bags.  Try to avoid using or buying plastic Tupperware or utensils.  Avoiding plastic whenever you can will also help you reduce your waste.
  9. Stop buying bottled water! Especially if you are lucky enough to live in a city with clean tap water, drink it. Best part, it's free!  For some, they hate the taste (sounds like an excuse to me) but if taste really is an issue for you, try a filtered water system.

    Bottled water, often advertised as a "pure" and "natural" alternative to tap water, is generally safe. But it's actually less regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency than municipal water supplies. Indeed, some bottled water is simply filtered tap water.  (source)
  11. Reduce your paper waste. Cancel unwanted catalogs, do all your billing online and always print double-sided.
  12. Wash in cold water and hang dry.  Of course this is easier done in the Summer (at least in Canada) but it's something to consider.  Six months out of the year is still better then nothing.
  13. Turn off your computer and monitor before you leave the office.
Most importantly, turn off your TV, get outside, be active.  Spend time with loved ones, start a new hobby or volunteer to give back to your community.  There is way more to life then working, television and shopping ... there's living it.

Green Resolutions Sources:

Sunday, December 25, 2011

This is Our Christmas ... Just a Small Part

A decorated kitchen mantle with recycled jars and bottles filled with Christmas things.  Sparkly ribbons, pine cones, candles, ornaments, and angels.  To do this: collect old jars, mason jars are great, but any will do and get creative filling them in with your favourite Christmas things.

The mantle at night, all lit up!

Many of the ornaments I found came from my mother's house and many of them were pretty old.  The older and more antique looking they are, the better they will look in the jars.  I also used scraps of various white material and filled the bottom of the jars to resemble snow.

My floating tree branch. I love.  Hanging from fish wire and decorated with ornaments.  I think tinsel would have also been a nice add-on.

Peanut butter caramel apples, covered in almond bits.  Delicious! A dinner party favour for our friends.  The decorative touch is a pine cone ornament, with painted on sparkles and a ribbon.

Our dinner party table. Set with water filled mason jars and floating candles, candy apple favours and a candle centerpiece.

Gifts, wrapped and ready to go, put together with recycled paper and recycled ribbon of course.  When I receive or find large scraps of good brown or craft paper, usually from packaged goods, I keep it for just such an occasion.

Newspaper works great too! Especially the comic & puzzles section.  For these gifts I added a simple ribbon and decorated tag made by recycling old Christmas cards, cut out and placed as a gift tag.

Thoughtfully decorated gingerbread houses.  Lots of candy = lots of sugar.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everybody!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Love Soup for the One I Love

A wonderfully hearty, hot soup, named after it and made with it: love.  This recipe is fantastic and pretty easy to make once you have all the ingredients.  It also makes enough to feed you and your loved ones for nearly a week.  This recipe comes from Jae Steele's Ripe from Around Here (page 162).

A perfect soup for a chilly winter, Christmas night to come ...

Love Soup
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 tsp sea salt to taste
2 tbsp fresh basil (or 1 tbsp dried)*
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne (or as little or as much as you want)
1 bay leaf
2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup filtered water
1 medium butternut squash, baked, skin removed and then chopped
2 medium ripe ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 medium (any colour) bell pepper, chopped
1 1/2 cups cooked white beans or chickpeas

*I didn't have basil on hand so I actually used dill and it worked beautifully!

1. Heat the oil in a large soup pot on medium.  Add the onion, garlic and celery and sauté until onions become translucent, about 10 minutes.  Add the salt, seasonings, vegetable stock, and water.  Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

2. Add the squash, tomatoes, bell pepper, and beans.  Cover and simmer for 10 minutes more, until all the vegetables are as tender as you like them.  Add a water, a bit at a time, if the soup is too thick, until desired consistency is reached.

Makes about 6 large servings.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Spicing Up our Christmas Gifts: Canning Salsa

This holiday season we decided to spend a little less money and little more time and effort into our gift giving.  One way we did this was to make homemade salsa and then canning it as a gift.

So to get started, I did some research online.  And found how to can soups, sauces and of course, salsa.  I also found some great recipes online for making our salsa too.

Step 1: The usual suspects: Vegetables

Step 2: Wash and sterilize your canning jars.

Step 3: Hire some good help. Making them wear a funny hat is a bonus.

Step 4: Make your salsa.

Step 5: Can your salsa.

Find a good website to learn how, there are many ways.  I think the best way is with a canner or pressure cooker, neither of which we had.  So, we did what we could, tried it and can only hope that it worked!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Oh Christmas Tree, are you Real? or Fake this Year?

Our lovely Christmas tree all done up!
This year we decided to buy a real tree.  Now, I wasn't too keen on the idea and I definitely thought it wasn't a very "green" option.  But sometimes, once in a while, Christmas just needs to feel like Christmas I think. And besides that, Mike loves Christmas about as much as I love Halloween and so I thought I would compromise and go with a real evergreen.

However, if you are thinking about skipping the real thing or even the traditional for that matter, here are a few very inventive, very eco-friendly tree ideas:

My Modern Met
I have seen this done using only green books but I love this colourful option.  Create your own book tree.

Designs that Inspire to Create Your Perfect Home
A tree built with love and  plywood scraps.

No time time for measuring, sawing or constructing, try a ladder tree.

Apartment Therapy
Now this is a very cool "tree"display. Very creative but I imagine it would have taken a lot of patience to put together.

A Collective of Vintage Teaspoons
Save those green bottles for the holidays and build your own Christmas tree with recyclables

Christmas can still be grand even on a small scale ...

Love this sweet fabric and wood tree.

Diggers List Blog
Recycled newspaper Christmas tree.

Natural Modern Interiors

 A driftwood tree, made from gathered pieces of wood.

So, are real trees for Christmas really that bad?

I did my research and found some interesting pros and cons to help you decide - real vs. fake?

Real tree Pros:

  • real trees, being natural, will decompose naturally and used as mulch for Spring/Summer growing
  • the beauty, fragrance and festive quality of a real tree just can't be replaced 
  • they provide oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide removing pollutants from the air (this could be seen as a con when they are removed from their environment but up until the time they are removed, this is a pro!)
  • some Christmas tree farms are placed in areas that would otherwise be unusable
  • when harvesting these trees, each one cut down must be replaced by another, planting new trees every year
  • tree population is not reduced due to Christmas tree farming; but instead is maintained

Real tree Cons:
  • these trees provide food, shelter and homes to animals so we would be taking that away
  • they reduce soil erosion and surface runoff
  • some are grown with harmful pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers
  • some Christmas tree farms use land that could possibly be better used

 Fake tree Pros:
  • need only to be purchased once and can be reused every year
  • fake trees have come a long way since the 50's, they can look better and less artificial today
  • No messy cleanup
  • You save money over time

Fake Tree Cons:

  •  they don't really last forever and will eventually end up in landfills
  • most are manufactured using a polyvinyl chloride (or PVC), which is a petroleum-derived plastic
  • they are non-renewable and polluting
  • some artificial trees actually come with warning labels due to their lead content

What do you think? Real or fake, and why?
Please leave a comment, would love to hear your thoughts!

Friday, December 9, 2011

DIY Holidays: Great Gift Ideas

If you haven't started Christmas shopping yet with just over two weeks left before the big day, then decorating may be the least of your worries.  Time to get cracking, make a list, check it twice, then go online and find some awesome DIY gift ideas you can try.

Let me help you get started:

For the Fashionista ...

The Toasted Coconut

Before you throw them any old try using your old pumps to make a very cute ring holder.

Happy Together Creates
Transform boring or dull silver hoop earrings into colourful works of art.

Lil Blue Boo

Even better, recycle old candy wrappers and transform an old belt into colourful, funky new style.

For the Romantic ...

Come on, Ilene!

The sweetest thing! Literally and figuratively, give your loved one homemade marshmallows with a personal message.

I am SO going to do this one day! It would be a great anniversary gift but would also do for Christmas: A personalized 52 Reasons I Love You deck of cards.

Stuff for the Home ...

The Crafty CPA


Beautiful handmade clay plates for any room in the home.

Heather Bullard: Lifestyle Blog

I am on a super mason jar kick right now and love this. A mason jar soap dispenser.

Censational Girl
Recycle old or unused sweaters into lovely throw pillows.

For your Mother, Sister, Daughter or Girlfriend ... 

Under the Table and Dreaming

Henry Happened

Or some lovely lemon herb soap.

For your Father, Brother, Son or Boyfriend ...

The Mother Huddle
 Like a wallet photo album but way better, a pocket watch photo album.

Design Sponge
Camping bench, which frankly, would be great for him or her.

A paperback wallet - very cool!

So nerdy, I love it.  Lego cuff links.

For Anyone always on the Go ...

Crafty Staci

For that someone who loves their lattes in the morning, make these sweet and stylish coffee sleeves that will also help reduce paper waste.

For the Kiddies ...

Make it and Love it

Use up any scrap pieces of material (if you have them) or reuse patterned shirts to make these stuffed turtle pillows.

Sew Fun

 Or buy some cute patterned material with a theme to make this soft blocks for toddlers.

For your 4-Legged Friend...

Come on, Ilene!

Homemade dog treats! You'll not only save money but you can custom make them to Fido's favourite flavours.

For when you can't think of anything else to give ...

Make it and Love it

Dress up your gift cards with these DIY gift card cozies.

Happy Hunting, Shopping, Making and Baking!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

DIY: Holiday Decorating Ideas

My holiday decorating is well under way.  This year I made sure to start early so that I can enjoy my festive home for a lot longer.  Table decorations are set, the tree is up, stockings are made, lights, action ... and yet, there are so many more crafts I would love to do!  Here are just a few ideas that have inspired me this year:

A Recovering Craft Hoarder
A fantastic way to reuse old CDs or DVDs - a 'Merry Christmas' sign.  This is great, especially since they are difficult to recycle.

photo source: Pinterest

A fun way to reuse an old ice skate.  Another option, donate your pair but if you only have one, this door decoration is lovely as well.

Plough Your Own Furrow
Another easy and pretty outdoor decorating idea using pine branches, pine cones and ball ornaments. If I had a porch, I would consider doing this.

Giver's Log
 Speaking of pine cones, these colourful mini cones are too cute!

Michele Made Me

And for the Christmas tree, twiggy mini trees ...

... and penguin ornaments.  What a great way to recycle light bulbs!

Eddie Ross
I always thought I would go with a traditional pine/green Christmas wreath but this ornament wreath is just so pretty.  And the tutorial on how to make it makes it look easy to create.

Crate Paper Blog
I now know what to do with all my scrap booking scraps - this tall paper Christmas Tree! 

Need more ideas?
 Check out 101 ornaments for a lot more DIY ideas!

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